The Musing: I was reminded that the “special time of year” was fast approaching when, the other day, my daughter created a Pandora station with Christmas music. I’m not going to write anything pithy here about the holidays or their true meaning; I’ll let that debate go on elsewhere. For me, the only contemplation I do at this is the time of year is about food and menus and gatherings. A bountiful table is a good thing, and I love to have them surrounded by friends an family. But I also like to enjoy the holiday without killing myself while creating the feast. Over the years, I have spent many holidays too tired be able to taste anything when we actually sit down. Somehow, at the moment when the magic is supposed to culminate, when everyone else is oohing and aahing and completely enraptured by epicurean delights, wine and conversation, my eyes glaze over and the fireworks turn into a puff of smoke that quickly dissipates.
Thus, I’ve developed rules that help me in planning feasts that don’t leave me catatonic on the actual holiday. I’m going to share them over the next few weeks. One of the most crucial things I’ve learned is this: make only one complicated, multi-ingredient dish. Let this dish be the star. Keep all of the other dishes simple, clean and seasoned to highlight that particular ingredient, and so that they complement the one star dish. In this way, you can create a banquet with many dishes, each of which takes only minutes to prepare. By keeping side-dishes fresh and simple, they also work together in a culinary symphony of well-orchestrated flavors. When I get carried away and start fantasizing about all these spectacular side dishes with many ingredients and steps, I have to remind myself that for a holiday banquet, it’s the orchestra as a whole that matters, not the individual instruments. If I make all of the parts too complicated (and labor intensive!), they tend to clash (and I end up on the floor).
|Filo Pouch with Roasted Butternut Squash, Fennel, Turnips, Caramelized Onions and Quinoa|
The Recipe: The good folks from Supreme Master Television came over a couple of weeks ago to shoot two episodes with me for their vegan cooking show, Vegetarianism – the Noble Way of Life. If you’ve heard of Loving Hut, the worldwide vegan restaurant chain, this is the organization behind them. They tirelessly promote veganism 24/7 through their restaurants, publications and television station. I had done a few episodes for them a few years ago (still on YouTube), and was delighted when David Smugar approached me at San Francisco’s World VegFest about doing a couple of more, one for World Vegan Day (Nov. 1) and the other for Thanksgiving. For the World Vegan Day episode, we decided on a cheese dish (yes, I’m promoting my cheese book every chance I get!) and we shot a Caprese Salad featuring my Buffalo Mozzarella, featured a year ago in this blog. For Thanksgiving, I made a pumpkin soup in a miniature pumpkin and a Filo Pouch with Roasted Veggies and Quinoa. You can catch both episodes on their web station – the former will be aired 4 times on November 1, and the latter 4 times on Thanksgiving Day. But of course, if you’d like to make these dishes for Thanksgiving, you just need to follow the recipes below. In case you hadn’t guessed, this would be the “star” dish for your holiday table – you only need to surround it with simple but beautifully prepared veggies and salad.